As Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba was ousted by his former military colleague, Captain Ibrahim Traoré, pro-coup crowds filled the streets. Some burned French flags; others gate Russian flags. This scene alone represents the current struggle taking place across the African continent.
A few years ago, the discussion of geopolitical changes in Africa was not exactly about France and Russia per se. He focused primarily on China’s growing economic role and political partnerships on the African continent. For example, Beijing’s decision to implement its first overseas military base in Djibouti in 2017 marked China’s major geopolitical move by translating its economic influence in the region into political influence, backed by a military presence.
China remains committed to its African strategy. Beijing has been Africa’s biggest trading partner for 12 years consecutively, with total two-way trade between China and Africa reaching $254.3 billion in 2021, according to recent data. published by the General Administration of Customs of China.
The United States and its Western allies are aware of and warn of China’s growing influence in Africa. The creation of US AFRICOM in 2007 was rightly understood be a countermeasure to China’s influence. Since then, and probably before, speaks of a new “Hustle for Africaabounded, with new players including China, Russia and even Turkey entering the fray.
The Russian-Ukrainian war, however, changed the geopolitical dynamics in Africa, as it highlighted Russian-French rivalry on the continent, as opposed to Sino-American competition there.
Although Russia has been present in African politics for years, the war – hence the need for stable allies in the United Nations (UN) and elsewhere – has accelerated Moscow’s charm offensive. In July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo, strengthening Russia’s diplomatic relations with African leaders.
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“We know that African colleagues do not approve of the undisguised attempts of the United States and its European satellites…to impose a unipolar world order on the international community,” Lavrov said. His words were met with agreement.
Russian efforts have borne fruit, from the first votes condemning Moscow at the United Nations General Assembly in March and April. Many African countries remained neutral or voted against measures targeting Russia at the UN.
South Africa’s position, in particular, was problematic from Washington’s perspective, not only because of the size of the country’s economy, but also because of political influence and moral authority. from Pretoria all over Africa. Moreover, South Africa is the only African member of the G20.
During his visit to the United States in September, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa defended neutrality of his country and raised objections to a US bill – the Act against Malicious Russian Activities in Africa – which aims to monitor and punish African governments that do not toe the US line in the Russian-Russian conflict. Ukrainian.
The West fails to understand, however, that Africa’s slow but determined move towards Moscow is neither fortuitous nor accidental.
The story of the continent’s past and present struggle against Western colonialism and neo-colonialism is well known. As the West continues to define its relationship with Africa on the basis of exploitation, Russia constantly reminds African countries of the Soviet legacy on the continent. This can be seen not only in official political speeches by Russian leaders and diplomats, but also in Russian media coverage, which prioritizes Africa and reminds African nations of their historic solidarity with Moscow.
Burning French flags and raising Russian flags, however, cannot simply be blamed on so-called Russian economic bribes, clever diplomacy or growing military influence. The preparation of African nations – Mali, the Central African Republic and now, perhaps, Burkina Faso – has much more to do with distrust and resentment of France’s selfish heritage in Africa, in East Africa. West in particular.
France has soldiers pedestals in many parts of Africa and remains an active participant in various military conflicts, earning it a reputation as the main destabilizing force on the continent. Equally important is that of Paris bastion on the economies of 14 African countries, forced to use the French currency, the CFA franc, and, according to Frédéric Ange Touré writing in The Africa Journalto: “Centralize 50% of their reserves in the French Treasury.
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Although many African countries remain neutral in the case of the Russian-Ukrainian war, a massive geopolitical shift is underway, especially in militarily fragile, impoverished and politically unstable countries that are eager to seek alternatives to France and the other Western powers. For a country like Mali, switching allegiance from Paris to Moscow wasn’t exactly a big gamble. Bamako had very little to lose, but a lot to gain. The same logic applies to other African countries struggling with extreme poverty, political instability and the threat of militancy, all of which are intrinsically linked.
Although China remains a powerful newcomer to Africa – a reality that continues to frustrate US policymakers – the most pressing battle, for now, is between Russia and France – the latter experiencing a palpable pushback.
In a speech last July, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that he wanted a: “Rethink all our (military) postures on the African continent. France’s change in military and foreign policy in Africa, however, was not imposed by strategy or vision, but by changing realities over which France has little control.
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